Review: Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian Works for the Kids

"I'd call it a little above average and recommend it to families looking for an innocent summer escape."

 

Way back in 2006 I gave the original Night at the Museum a B-, a nice grade given the film was made for people under double digits. I'm saddened to report that this version isn't quite as good as the original, but it's not wholly bad either. I'd call it a little above average and recommend it to families looking for an innocent summer escape. To recap: Date night? No. Kid's day? Sure.

Ben Stiller is back, reprising his role as Larry the night watchman -- only he's left that job way behind, launching himself into an inventor-mogul sort of career path. The film gives Ed Helms (The Daily Show, The Office) a little cameo on that front, but the whole subplot is, in the grand tradition of all children's films, pretty pointless. Still, there are solid cameos all the way around; a whole mess of actors contribute five good minutes. Jonah Hill does credible work in one scene as a Smithsonian guard while Christopher Guest puts a new spin on Ivan the Terrible. Hank Azaria is great (as per normal) in a beefier role as the foil, former Egyptian Pharaoh wannabe Kah Mun Rah.

Now then, the premise of the film, for those of you who skipped the first one and don't have access to trailers. Larry Daley, with the help of an Egyptian tablet, watches the museum exhibits come to life on a nightly basis ... we'll call that the first film. In this version he's been neglectful of his recently animated friends, and they're all shipped off to the Smithsonian archives. Larry needs to bust in, rescue them, and you can guess where it goes from there. Amy Adams throws down as female lead Amelia Earhart, though to the film's credit it doesn't push the "love interest" angle too hard. (Random aside: Is there a more likable person than Amy Adams in Hollywood? When she comes on screen it's difficult not to love her. She's like human ice cream on a sunny day.)

What doesn't work here is the overall logic. It's missing a lot of it. Character motivations are obviously far more comedy-based than common sense-based; I don't begrudge the film this, but it does make it tougher for the adult audience to find connection. Still, the effects work is seamless and I did get a few chuckles out of the banter. That's a decent haul for a film with little ambition, right?

Thus, this is just about what you thought it was -- a solid escape for young minds, a passable time for adult thinkers. A harmless summer comedy, neither offensive nor amazing, neither worth proselytizing or bickering about.

Grade C+